Kirkland Oliver was a regular on Friday afternoons at the cigar store where I work in Boston.
He was an affable and enigmatic man still living life like it was 1969.
We hadn’t seen Kirk in over three weeks, a rare thing for a guy that you could count on like clockwork
to show up and get some rolling tobacco and papers (6oz of 3 Citadels and 17 Modiano Club Papers).
On a dark whim, I Googled ‘Kirkland Oliver – obit- Boston’ and came up with a result that broke my heart.
Kirkland died July 29th at 66 years of age of prostate cancer.
What follows is a personal obituary and tribute to a gentle soul many people have never had the good fortune to meet.
This was written in part by myself but a more substantial portion was written by my dear friend and associate, Will Marks.
Enjoy our candid view of a man that truly knew who and what he was.
Kirkland used to make collages out of stuff most folks would discard.
He would make stuff featuring his pals’ names featuring all kinds of symbols and references.
The message was pretty much the same: Kirkland was telling us that we were cool by his calculus.
These works of art weren’t made for everyone.
Just the people that Kirkland let into his cosmic circle.
Speaking of calculus, one time a fellow was in the store going on and on about his math ability.
Kirkland asked him what he did and the fellow said, “I’m a quant!” then he shared some detail in a condescending tone to make sure Kirkland got it saying, “I’m into heavy math for the investment industry.”
The store got quiet and Kirkland looked at him and said, “Yeah, I was into math too, used to make my dick hard in 3rd grade so I got into making shapes and artwork all based on math.”
Sizing up the quant he added “…but I outgrew that stuff, if you dig.”
KO had an unmistakeable ‘jazz’ quality about him.
From the way he walked (with a huge wooden walking stick) to the way he talked he had a rhythm and undeniable groove.
It was his ‘groove’ and his alone as he walked to the beat of his own personal drummer.
There was nothing quite like Kirkland striding into the store with the overpowering scent
of a double dose of patchouli oil announcing his arrival.
He’d flash that winning crooked smile and say “Peace” and get into the discussion always leading it back to the tenants of his homespun philosophy (equal parts Hendrix/Shakespeare/McLuhan/Grateful Dead/Health Food Store Chatter/Cantab lounge misinformation) with detours along the way typically including the night Sun Ra played Slug’s when he was blitzed on Owsley acid or how Mingus tore it up another night, his recent favorite band Girls On Top,
or how the Boston Public Library’s address was proof of dark plots.
“You know what the number of the Boston Public Library is, man? 666! It’s the sign of the ‘Cipher’, you dig?”
Kirk would chuckle and say, “Peace . . . peace.”
Naturally, Kirkland bragged about his family and how he played the violin.
Then there were his cosmic rants about people who were too uncool to be friendly.
When Kirk would get rolling papers (always 13 until the size changed and it went to 17)
he always challenged me to grab the correct number of papers.
Sometimes I would and he would smile and say, “Nice, man. Peace.”
And he always rolled one menthol cigarette on Fridays.
Kirkland’s Friday pronouncements—“All the world’s a stage”, “What goes around comes around”, “Ain’t nothing new under the sun”, “Can you dig it?”, “It’s the Illuminati man they are controlling everything these days”, “Man I was checking out the internet you know where that is man?”, “Did you know I was in a coma man? Yeah, didn’t even know my wife when I woke up!”, “I love the smell of that cigar it’s getting me high.”, “I’ll take some menthol and 17 packs of rolling papers.”—are now a thing of the past; part of the store’s hallowed lore.
Kirkland has joined the pantheon of greats who went before him.
No sweat, Kirkland the larger than life friend to all who were willing, who put the “hep” in hepcat,
will live on in the hearts of all who were lucky enough to have been touched by his friendship and love.
I know many things about this man but some I can’t share here.
These were his gifts.
I know he always made me smile in his own and original hepcat way.
And although the sun was shining in Boston today, the city for me was just a darker shade of grey without Kirk . . .
Sleep well, my friend.
Oh, and Peace . . .
Hail to Kirkland for he knew who and what he was:
~m & Will Marks